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"Kiss the flower and you'll have three wishes", said the fairy. "What if the flower is poisoned?" I asked. "This is just one of those scams. You are not a fairy. You were sent to kill me. K. at work, she hates me, or Mrs. A. from downstairs, she hates my late night singing, or the guy next door, he couldn't park his car because mine was blocking the road. My life is no fairy tale. I will not kiss the flower. Anyway, it smells." The fairy sighed. "Sorry", she said. "I must have the wrong address." And she left.
He had never seen her face. But when she read to him – she came every week – her scent was in the air of his room. The day she didn't come was one of the hottest that summer. He had fixed himself some iced green tea and listened to the tinkle of the cubes in his glass. He was annoyed, then worried. They had almost finished The Secret History last week. He wanted to hear the end. But she never came again. She had seen the longing, for her, in his dead eyes and her fear was greater than her love.
She asked: „Will the roses be in bloom every spring when I'm dead?" He said: "Take the eggplant slices and rub them with olive oil and garlic." She asked: "When pain pulls at me, can I chop it off?" He said: "Bake them in the oven for 20 minutes on medium heat." She asked: "Can I kill god to be free?" He said: "When they're done sprinkle them with chives." She asked: "When smoke hangs over the city, are our thoughts spread by the wind?" He said: "Keep them in the fridge for no more than 2 days. Serve chilled."
Not a scratch. Intact. Unbroken. Smooth, undamaged. Cool, not hostile. I could turn it to shards, I could hear it shatter, want to let it slip. Fragility, only a twitch of the mind or a tremble of fingers, a moment of loosening grip, half-conscious, is between whole and split, damage. Like the seconds the train screeches into the station and something is pulling, ever so softly, luring me, tempting me to jump. Like standing by the open window high over the city thinking, thrilled, shocked, how easy it would be, how tiny the difference between hanging on and letting go.
He called out to her just in time to stop her from running in front of the bus. She froze. He went up to her. Yes, frozen through. He had some trouble carrying her home but he managed. He put her next to the radiator. It was no good. She remained unyielding. What would he do with her? Sipping a glass of water he walked round her several times. She was very attractive. He could probably keep her for a while. His friends would admire her, ask him if it was permanent, maybe worry about her frostiness after a while.
Did you ever try to remember what it was like before you could read? Some dreams take you back there. Just meaningless shapes, no letters, they won't link up to name something or tell you a story. No matter how hard you try to look like that at a page, the words won't crumble, disintegrate into dots and lines and curves, liberated from meaning and free from sounds. Once you have learned it you cannot unlearn, only if you mess up or loose part of your brain, and who would do that just to see … it's easier to dream.
The rattlesnake came back after sunset. She was still there. "Why don't you run away from me?" the rattlesnake asked. It was hot, still. Joshua trees were odd silhouettes against the sky. She answered wearily: "I am Sleeping Beauty. I slept a hundred years. I won't die today." "How do you know?" Hot wind blew shapeless things across the desert. "I'm not even here", she answered. "I'm in my castle, with the prince." "I'll put you back to sleep", said the rattlesnake, and the bite almost felt like the spindle, a hundred years ago. Maybe this is just a dream.
Overwhelmed by the simplicity of perfection. Car on a dark highway, old music stroking memories. Huge blades cut the wind and flash red lights at the sky. Some stars shoot down, most keep still – or that’s what it looks like from here. Someone flashes a white light from behind, impatience in a Mercedes. Are there nightingales hiding behind the shadows? Will I find one and grab it from the witch and break the spell? Do I want to? The night is a balmy stranger, to avoid or to embrace, I don’t know. Either way, it will be gone too soon.
Why was getting drunk so tempting? Every time she had a few drinks the world turned pretty, funny and easy. She could talk. She could be witty. People liked her. Men loved her. Women admired her. She was beautiful. Food didn’t matter. Nothing mattered. She floated through fluffy scented haze and she was brilliant. She worshipped herself. She was proud. Until one drink tipped the balance, and the universe turned ugly. Sailing the nausea on a yacht named MSS Self-Loathing. Unmasking the chimera who mocked her. Oh, for someone to hold her, tell her it was okay, love her nonetheless.
Pain. In the dark she claws at my arms. She knows no meanness, has probably never doubted her strength, came up quietly, before I knew I wasn't alone she jumped on me, the intruder, I meant no harm but couldn't explain why I was here, explain that I was no stranger to this place although I hadn't been around, little beast, my arms bleed and hurt, a dog would have bitten me or torn me apart if the woman hadn't done so already. I can't find my things. She must have sold them. I leave, having patted the cat absent-mindedly.
Whenever she loved doing something, she stopped. She ran away from pleasure. She'd rather punish herself by doing things she loathed, or by growing lethargic, suffocating any enthusiasm or joy that tried to well up inside. She closed her eyes before beauty. She cut off her tongue for singing and tasting sweetness. She was not allowed to breathe. She fought love, because she didn't deserve it.
When he found out he could breathe under water he didn't tell anyone. Maybe it was just a delusion, maybe it would go away if he talked about it. He practiced in the bathtub. His wife wondered why he spent so much time in the bath. She speculated, but she was wrong. She listened at the door. Nothing but silence most of the time. It didn't change his life that much. It was just the one thing he did nobody knew about. When the world became too dry, he went down to quiescence and coolness. Under water he was happy.
I will speak any tongue, use any voice. I will do you the frog's croak and the seagull's scream, the wind's hum and the stars' whisper. I will turn the firefly's glow into words and the heat of a pebble on a summer afternoon. I will speak the roar of the ocean and the tinkle of a mountain spring. I will sing the blue freeze of glaciers and the hissing of the geysir two seconds before eruption. I will sing you the joy of the apple tree when it finally rains and the surprise of the grasshopper when lightning strikes.
it is not real, we are not there yet, they are not talking, I am not happy, it is not in here, we are not going anywhere yet, they are not after us, I am not scared, it is not fair, we are not going back yet, they are not in sight, I am not tired, it is not over, we are not stopping yet, they are not forgiving, I am not hungry, it is not so bad, we are not ready yet, they are not open, I am not sleeping, there you go, how do we, this is it.
You cannot fight sickness by dwelling on how bad you feel. As if by increasing your discomfort you can break the sound barrier of pain and come out the other end cured and well. I've tried many times, believe me. Cried till my eyes bled, threw up till this stomach started creeping up my oesophagus, walked a splinter of my broken thigh into my flesh. Never ever did I feel any better for it. Now, I am used to aching and maybe I am addicted and unable to heal. I will push myself to the limits of pain. Delicious agony.
For the first time you got the table by the window. Moments like that make you realise that what you thought would make your day usually doesn't. You're immediately pissed off about something else. The tea is weak, the cheese sliced too thin, you cannot eat jam because you're on a diet and you can't afford the smoked salmon. The sun shines in through the window but your lover is not here because he just left you and sits somewhere else with someone else, eating jam and smoked salmon and everything. And you don't give a damn about the window.
She lives on a flamingo's tongue. That fragility, that beauty. The flamingo doesn't sing, ever. When she looks out the world is lush, sun painting feathers pink. Sometimes she cries and her tears go down the flamingo's throat filling his stomach with salty water. He feels her sadness but doesn't know she's there. But sometimes he can hear her sing. At sunset when pink meets orange meets purple and everything looks fake. Her song rises from the flamingo's tongue and he feels happy though he doesn't know why. The other flamingos listen, pink and one-legged. Who knows what they think.
The world was too heavy and too dark. She could hardly stand upright, let alone walk. Turning the page of a book was an effort. Lifting the pen to take notes was impossible. Staring into space she didn't like what she saw. Yet she couldn't avert her eyes, it was too hard. She was tired. She couldn't sleep, it wasn't that kind of tired. Just empty and uninspired and sad, unable to join in, unable to be glad. Talking? Forget it. Other people just reminded her that there was a world happening out there. More than she cared to know.
Time flies. Sometimes it crashes. Sometimes there are delays. Sometimes time is hijacked and kept at gunpoint. Sometimes there are security checks and you stand in line. But they need to know if you want to blow up time. Time must be kept safe. Sometimes time takes off heavily and roars, sometimes it flutters, rests, goes on. Sometimes there are many with you, and sometimes you're all alone with time, just the two of you, and sometimes you cannot keep up with time, it's too fast, and sometimes it's too slow for you, and you just have to … kill time.
Who tells you tales while you are asleep? Where do they come from, and did Sleeping Beauty ever get bored? Where do you go at night, when no one can see you travel and you can fly and turn into anything? Why can you smell things but nothing hurts? Why can you cry (when you wake up your throat is tight but no tears on your face)? Can you hear music? Why do things make sense and when you wake up they don't? Why is there such clarity and such obscurity and why can't you run faster? Don't wake up.
She was French, she was blonde, she had style, she came down, she looked fine, she drank wine, she sat down, she was drunk, she said so, she loved me, she said so, she said more, I kissed her, I was glad, I said so, I was stunned, I said more, she was shocked, she got up, I said No, I held her, she was sad, we sat down, we drank more, I kissed her, she kissed me, we were drunk, we did more, she got down, I said Yes, we made love, we could stop, we did not. Why?
Voodoo? I tried it once. The photo wasn’t very good and there were too many people on it so I may have missed him once or twice. But I was thorough. That bit of the picture was like a sieve when I was done with it. I drizzled some nail varnish remover over it just to be sure. He was smudged and punctured. I felt a little better. Next day, at school, I waited for him behind the gate. He came, looking alright. What a disappointment. But later during maths I think he held his head as if it hurt.
He could see them through thick glass, tinted blue. They couldn’t see him, he couldn’t hear them. Their hair was grey in places, they had aged. He walked up and down behind the screen, desperate to move, unable to speak. He knocked, but they didn’t seem to notice. He felt helpless, wanted to make contact. He had been alone for so long. They were laughing, and someone poured more Whisky. He snorted. Bourbon, not Scotch, that wouldn’t have happened with him around. But he had been gone too long. They wouldn’t even remember him. He sat down, lighted another cigarette.
suddenly the promise of tomorrow but tomorrow never becomes now is always another tomorrow and what is now is a burden a sickness to be overcome tomorrow tomorrow you’ll never heal from today the present is like a tumour in every fibre of today your body your unbending self but forever waiting looking forward to never looking down at your today your now body and soul is tomorrow tomorrow will never be here but is like the dangling tomorrow before your now (ass) eyes that you follow but can’t you see look down stamp ride over the now to morrow.
By the time he reached the airport she was out of love, out of anticipation of meeting again. Sitting in the car her right arm turned to toast. When night finally came it was stubborn, the fun fair silent. Tightness in every moment, breath, blink. She thought of the pilgrims climbing mountains in Kashmir on their honeymoon, freezing on a cold night, odd and delirious. Sweet plums and water speeding home greet them, with kisses only they can feel the hidden touch of cunning hands sinking in hearts’ quicksand. Put a machine in her head and she’ll think for you.
Years later she sails the same seas, without hope, with a splitting headache. Words don’t work and silence is also stubborn. She invents games and they understand the rules but don’t get the message. The wind dies down and they use the paddles but still it’s so hard to go anywhere at all. Her head is thumping and she is in a bad mood, when every minute counts, every smile has to last for weeks. What does she want anyway? Jump ship? Dive? She tries to race her heart but it always wins. Why is it so hard to touch?
Facing his demons too late. They seem to have retired, lost their bite. Their lights went out while he had been looking the other way. Why resurrect something that you’re just going to fight again? The conjurer is never innocent and cannot pretend to be. He would have to justify his need for enemies to stand up to. Wanting and not being able to admit it. The consequences he didn’t want but yet wants to trigger. He cannot help but tempt. Cannot be pure. Just cruel? Will only torture himself in the end. But pain is the queen of inspirations.
When the last one had gone they were left in the hallway. And in-between kind of life, neither inside nor outside, having left home but not gone out into the world. First it was fun. But there was very little there. The light went out every four minutes. The marble stairs were smooth and cold. The walls were bare and they were locked in, a closed system. They would lose momentum … Later they discovered they were not alone. Strange sounds in the basement, shadows and whispers. They tried to talk to them. They would get used to each other.
The lake was the colour of liquid cough drops. He drove all the way around. He was going to climb the mountain. From up there the world would look simple. It started to rain. He started to climb. Thumbnail-sized frogs hopped through the forest hoping to escape walking stick impalement. Two jet-black salamanders hurried off in opposite directions, crawling S-shaped. He went up steadily but the rain was against him. The world wasn’t simple. No use to look down on it and pretend. He turned around and followed the frog path back down. He resisted the urge to stab amphibians.
She packed only a few things. Her mother’s long amber necklace. Her father’s knife. And the blurred picture of her mother and her father’s brother, not looking at each other in that way. She left home on a Wednesday morning in May. Not able to stay in a life held together by ignorance and wrapped in silence. She hated her mother for the sad desire in her moves, her father for trying not to show he loved her. She hated herself for running away. She could never escape her parents’ blood whispering in her heart. She didn’t leave a note.
The witch and the hunter had retired long ago, thinking there were no more princesses to go into battle for. And those that remained didn’t believe in them. But there was one who did, who had waited for this day, had learned to fight, move quietly. She had dreamed of the prince and feared the witch. She was ready to rouse fate from its sleep and reclaim magic. She got up from her lover’s bed and took her car keys. Smiling. Expectant. Nervous and beautiful. She knew this wasn’t the stuff of operas. This was for pop songs and sitcoms.
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